Decadal-mean impact of including ocean surface currents in bulk formulas on surface air-sea fluxes and ocean general circulation

Yang Wu, Xiaoming Zhai, Zhaomin Wang

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The decadal-mean impact of including ocean surface currents in the bulk formulas on surface air–sea fluxes and the ocean general circulation is investigated for the first time using a global eddy-permitting coupled ocean–sea ice model. Although including ocean surface currents in air–sea flux calculations only weakens the surface wind stress by a few percent, it significantly reduces wind power input to both geostrophic and ageostrophic motions, and damps the eddy and mean kinetic energy throughout the water column. Furthermore, the strength of the horizontal gyre circulations and the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation are found to decrease considerably (by 10%–15% and ~13%, respectively). As a result of the weakened ocean general circulation, the maximum northward global ocean heat transport decreases by about 0.2 PW, resulting in a lower sea surface temperature and reduced surface heat loss in the northern North Atlantic. Additional sensitivity model experiments further demonstrate that it is including ocean surface currents in the wind stress calculation that dominates this decadal impact, with including ocean surface currents in the turbulent heat flux calculations making only a minor contribution. These results highlight the importance of properly accounting for ocean surface currents in surface air–sea fluxes in modeling the ocean circulation and climate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9511–9525
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number23
Early online date30 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

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